Saw Gooch's first-class debut at Westcliff in 1973 and grew to know him well after becoming chief executive of Essex in 1979.
"ALL the runs and all the majestic batting were put into perspective one afternoon in June 1991. He was probably the top player in the world then. England were 1-0 up in the series against West Indies with two played; he had played his epic innings of 154 not out in the first. The day after the drawn Second Test, Essex were in the NatWest Trophy first round. The match was against Devon at Exmouth and went pretty smoothly. Devon batted first and made 149 and when we replied Graham got out for a half-century with our score on around 120. He strode off the pitch and straight into the dressing-room, took off his pads and gloves, washed his hands and immediately came out again. There were hundreds and hundreds of children wanting his autograph. He lined them all up in a straight line and started signing. The match ended, he broke off for the presentation ceremonies and then returned to this straggling crocodile. The kids loved it. It was the sort of incident which marked him as a player and a man. Some of our other players joined him, but not all of them. It was the sort of incident that marked men from boys. We have had our ups and downs, of course, but he has been a tremendous servant to Essex. There is no doubt he could have gone on."
The county opponent
HAVING been around since 1978, Leicestershire's competitive journeyman seamer has borne the full brunt of the heavy bat, but has also had his triumphs.
"THE timing and the sheer strength were what hit you. It was important to try to bowl a straighter line than you would normally because he would tend to use any space outside the off-stump to strike you through mid- on. Of course, straighten it too much and you drift to his legs. He seemed to like the Leicestershire attack [nine hundreds] but then one of his chief assets was that he played it hard in every game. When you got his wicket you knew you'd earned it. I shall remember last year at Leicester. The match was memorable for the remarkable efforts of David Millns and Vince Wells but I shall always recall it too. Towards the end of the third day Goochy was well entrenched, entering the seventies and batting like a prince. The captain, James Whitaker, asks me if I would like to bowl and I think to myself: 'Oh, yes, thanks very much.' So there we are, Parsons at 36 bowling to Gooch at 42. There are two overs in the day to go. I bowl him a slower ball; it deceives him and bowls him. We had beaten Yorkshire in the previous match and went on to beat Essex by an innings. But I like to think the wicket was vital. He looked set, you never know what might have happened and on such things do Championships turn. A great player, a pleasure to watch."
The South African
IN the spring of 1982 Gooch, then an established England player, went on a rebel tour as part of the so-called South African Breweries England XI to the republic. Bacher organised it.
"THERE are two outstanding features about Graham Gooch. He was an oustanding man whose bahaviour and sportsmanship were utterly beyond approach. And he has been a truly exceptional role model for young people in the calm manner in which he carried himself. But there is another thing as far as South Africa is concerned. He was a friend of ours during the years when so few were. He came here on the tour and he also played for Western Province. It cannot have been easy for him but he always conducted himself with immense dignity. He also got a hundred in the first match between the team which he captained and South Africa [the century was later expunged from the first-class records]. As a team man he was matchless; as a batsman he was among the most powerful and watchable of his generation. Great is an overused word about players. Don Bradman and Sir Len Hutton were great, and of recent vintage so were Viv Richards and Graeme Pollock. Gooch does not quite get into that category but I remember watching on television awe-struck as he tore apart the Indian attack for his triple century at Lord's. That was an innings of a man who could not get out. If he was not great he was in the very next tier."
The Test team-mate
AS vice-captain for much of the time Gooch led England, the pair seemed to complement each other though the professional relationship did not end as amiably as it might have. He now runs Allan Lamb Associates, organising corporate hospitality.
"THERE cannot have been a harder working player than Goochy. He ran miles every day, then he trained in the nets and then he played and sometimes he would run some more. He was dedicated, and he expected everybody else to be like that. He could not work out why they weren't. There was a downside to this. We would go out for dinner some nights and by eight o' clock he would be asleep in his plate. He got me running too, important as I got older, but David Gower and Ian Botham never did. Graham couldn't get it. We worked pretty well as captain and vice-captain, him as the man who led from the front while I sort of kept the camaraderie going. We listened to each other, respected each other, but there was a breakdown in communications when I lost the vice-captaincy. He never called me to let me know what was going on, I had to work it out for myself. He did a wonderful job, except in handling older players maybe, but what a player he was. We put on more than 300 against India at Lord's in 1990 when he got his triple hundred but it's hard to recall it because it was all over so quickly. I was there and gone in two sessions. We just decided to smash it around."
The opening partner
NOW Hampshire's captain, he opened the batting with Gooch for eight seasons at Essex (and once for England, Stephenson's only cap). It was Gooch's most prolific partnership.
"BATTING with the man was a dream. He scored his runs quickly so that made it easier if you were at the other end. The bowlers were always giving it their best shot against him, so that might have helped his partner too. He helped me immensely, both in terms of technique and fitness. We may be different types of batsmen but we have the same single-minded approach to the game in terms of preparation. There were so many highlights sharing an innings with him and it seemed to work from the first time we opened together. It was at Southend in 1986 against Worcestershire. We put on 214 for the first wicket, and during the course of this, with Goochy talking to me a lot, he got hold of their off-break bowler Dipak Patel. It was a personal master class in how to play spin. Probably the proudest match of our time together was at Northampton in 1990. We put on more than 200 in both innings. It was only the third time it had happened in cricket history. We were friends, still are, as well as batting partners. He was tremendous to bat with, an enduring influence on me and the way he applied himself in every single match makes him the best English opener over the past 40 years. Bar none."
The Test opponent
ONE of the great fast bowlers of all time, he had utmost respect for Gooch at a time when West Indies dominated the cricket world and most of the batsmen in it.
"HE was a challenge to bowl at. Now I like to think I won a few of those challenges. I got him out a few times - I thought I knew how best to do it at the start of an innings, maybe lbw with the feet not moving. But now is not the time to dwell on that. He was a tremendous opponent in a period when West Indies were pretty dominant. My first memory of what an irresistible player he could be was at Lord's in 1980. He made 123 in a pretty small total against an attack which consisted of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft. It was an innings which made him in some ways. I'm just glad I was watching it from the pavilion, not playing. I played at Headingley 11 years later when he got his 154. He countered everything we could throw at him with the broadest of bats. A truly admirable effort because at Headingley you were never in. For a few years there it seemed that if you got Goochy and his heavy bat out you got England out. There can be no higher praise really. He was good against all types of bowling when he was in, off front and back foot. The way he led, by incredible example, will never be forgotten."Reuse content